Management practices and innovation - The role of paradoxical tensions and national context

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (article-based)
Degree programme
78 + app. 116
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL THESES, 27/2023
Innovation plays a vital role in helping companies maintain and improve their market position, attain long-term success, and reap the rewards of economic and societal growth. However, the innovation process is intricate and poses significant management challenges, making it a difficult task for organizations to undertake. Despite scholarly efforts to assist companies in making strategic and managerial decisions related to innovation, there is still a lack of understanding on how to effectively implement managerial practices, manage the inherent conflicts and complexities, and facilitate innovation within diverse national settings. This dissertation explores innovation management from different perspectives, using dynamic capability theory, paradox theory, and institutional theory to offer a holistic view. These theories address inconsistencies in the innovation literature, explore tensions in the innovation process, and understand the impact of national culture and institutions. Dynamic capability theory explains variations in innovation management, such as the importance of managerial practices and their effectiveness in different contexts. Paradox theory offers insights into the impact of paradoxical tensions and their management during the innovation process. Institutional theory sheds light on the role of national culture and institutions in innovation management. Empirically, the dissertation provides a comprehensive examination of innovation management by combining a meta-analytical literature review, qualitative case study, and quantitative survey. The meta-analytical review identifies managerial levers that promote better innovation outcomes, showing that practices vary based on the institutional and industrial environment. Essay 2, a qualitative case study, examines firms' differing approaches in managing performance and organization during the sustainable new product development process, highlighting the role of the institutional environment and the presence of paradoxical tensions. Essay 3, a quantitative study, explores the impact of paradoxical management practices on product innovation and their moderation by national culture. The results indicate that performing paradoxical practices are positively related to product effectiveness, while organizing paradoxical practices improve process efficiency, and both product effectiveness and process efficiency are positively impacted by the learning paradoxical practice. The study also finds that the national context plays a significant role in managing paradoxical tensions in new product development, with Chinese firms performing better compared to Nordic firms. This dissertation sheds light on the intricacies of innovation management and offers an in-depth view on how to effectively manage the innovation process. It emphasizes the significance of balancing opposing tasks and objectives, addressing tensions, and considering the national environment for successful innovation management.
Supervising professor
Fey, Carl F., Prof., BI Norwegian Business School, Norway
Thesis advisor
Birkinshaw, Julian, Prof., London Business School, UK
Saittakari, Iiris, Assist. Prof., Aalto University, Finland
innovation management, technological innovation, management practices, paradox theory, dynamic capability theory, institutional theory, national context
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Xu, Xiaoshi, Arrieta, Valentina, & Fey, Carl F. Dynamic capabilities and drivers of innovation: A meta-analytical review. Unpublished essay
  • [Publication 2]: Xu, Xiaoshi. Managing Organizational Paradoxes in Sustainable New Product Development. Unpublished essay
  • [Publication 3]: Xu, Xiaoshi, Fey, Carl F., & Birkinshaw, Julian. Paradoxical Practices and Product Innovation Performance. Unpublished Essay